Direct communication: tips on communication

My Advice: Talk ‘TO’ Each Other, Not ‘ABOUT’ Each Other

In life, we often find ourselves navigating a complex web of relationships—be it with family, friends, colleagues, or partners. These relationships are built on a foundation of trust, understanding, and effective communication. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that one invaluable lesson stands out above the rest: clear, open, honest, and direct communication with people is the key to solving most problems that may arise in these relationships.

It’s a common scenario in our lives; when faced with a challenge or a disagreement in a relationship, our instinct is to seek solace in talking to others about the issue rather than addressing it with the person directly involved. This tendency can easily lead to the deterioration of relationships, as communication becomes less about resolution and more about venting frustrations or assigning blame. It’s a pattern that many of us fall into, and it’s a pattern that can be highly detrimental.

A wise piece of advice that has stayed with me throughout the years is the notion that when you point your finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you. This simple yet profound idea highlights the importance of self-reflection and personal responsibility in our relationships. It reminds us that instead of attributing all the problems to others, we should examine our own role and our own contributions to the situation.

The Power of Direct Communication

From personal and professional experiences, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that the most effective way to strengthen and maintain healthy relationships, particularly those with referral partners, is to engage in direct communication. This means talking “to” each other instead of talking “about” each other. When a problem or challenge arises, the best course of action is to address it head-on, rather than letting it fester and grow through gossip or third-party discussions.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have concerns or issues with someone in your life, I encourage you to take immediate action. Pick up the phone and call them, send an email, or, even better, request a face-to-face meeting. Approach the conversation with the intention of understanding each other’s perspectives and finding a mutually beneficial solution. Remember that the goal is to work collaboratively towards resolving the challenges that have arisen rather than engage in the “blame game”.

Stay Focused on Solutions

Maintaining a “solutions-focused” mindset is paramount in these discussions. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes or trying to pinpoint fault, focus on finding ways to move forward positively. Encourage open dialogue and active listening, as these are the cornerstones of effective communication. By actively seeking solutions and addressing concerns directly, you demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and your willingness to work together to overcome obstacles.

In the context of referral partners, this approach is especially crucial. Referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual support, and they thrive when both parties communicate openly and honestly. When issues or misunderstandings arise, addressing them directly can prevent them from escalating into more significant problems that could damage the partnership.

The power of clear, open, honest, and direct communication cannot be overstated when it comes to maintaining and strengthening relationships. Rather than talking “about” each other, it is essential to talk “to” each other when challenges or conflicts arise. By doing so, we foster an environment of trust, understanding, and collaboration, ultimately ensuring that our relationships remain healthy, resilient, and mutually beneficial. Remember, effective communication is the bridge that leads to resolution, growth, and a more harmonious connection with those around us.

I invite you to tell me about a time in your life when you spoke with someone and resolved the situation OR about a time when you didn’t talk about the issue and the relationship got worse.

13 thoughts on “My Advice: Talk ‘TO’ Each Other, Not ‘ABOUT’ Each Other

  1. This is so important- especially with your fellow BNiers (referral partners). I seen it way too many times- a person will have an issue with another, but fail to talk to them about it.
    Open, honest communication (done in a loving and caring way) insures success.
    Someone caring enough about you to point out something that may hurt you is where we all want to be.

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Santa Clarita/Antelope Valleys, Ca.

  2. This is very good in theory but very difficult in practice. I think that systems should be put in place by the leadership teams to deal with this divisive issue and a zero tolerance policy should be implemented.

  3. Ivan,
    One of the best pieces of advice – EVER! If we could all remember this – in businss and in personal life, we would be SO FAR ahead of the game. Thank you for reminding us HOW to do what works very time.

  4. When I talk (meaning complain) to others rather than speak directly to the person with whom I have an issue, I am essentially playing the game of “Telephone”. We all know what occurs when this game is played: the story changes, becomes distorted, the facts are confused. The difference is that’s a game. Here, we’re talking about real life and real relationships. In “Telephone”, when the game is over we laugh when we compare the original information to what was told to the last person in the line. In real situations, if I fail to speak directly to the person, I deny them the opportunity to be understood and I deny both of us the chance to listen and learn.

  5. Communication is absolutely necessary to any relationship and it is a two-way street. Businesses need to stop and consider what they may be communicating to their customers, clients or patrons as well as how they are sending these messages. Secondly, businesses need to consider what messages are coming back to them and how these messages are being delivered. Most businesses are hopefully waking up to how increasingly important social media marketing is becoming. Not all social media is created equal and just having a page on Facebook is not adequate. Personal communication is so very important and businesses are finding new ways to have a dialog through social media.

  6. I have found that most problems boil down to a lack of communication or a lack of education. Many times we have not communicated what we truly want or need from someone. On the flip side, many times we have not taken the time to properly educate our referral sources or staff. If we remember that the other persons perception IS their reality then it is easier to see an issue as stated above. Just an opportunity to communicate or educate in a way that will be effective for bot parties.

  7. One of the most important skills is getting along with others. In BNI the code of ethics requires us to be supportive and positive with each other. When people start talking about others rather than to others, relationships are impacted and this results in a loss of closed business. Membership Committees need to be tough, but diplomatic, with this at all times.

    If there is an issue with someone, you put it in writing to the Membership Committee. If you don’t want to do that, you are not entitled to speaking about it to anyone other than the person there is a problem with.

    Again, getting along with others is key!

  8. Hi Ivan, reading your blog is the thing I must do everything because it is really unique, I love that. And because of that, I bought your 4 books in one shot. I promoted your blog on one Kuala Lumpur business networking fan page as well.

  9. Hi Ivan, thanks for your reply. Those books are on the way from US to Malaysia. : Would you mind to connect on Linkedin? I would like to interview you for our magazine.
    Our magazine is the first Asia Linkedin + networking magazine. Without interviewing you, I feel something not right for our magazine. 🙂

    I hope my readers can read your thought in how to do networking so that they can benefit from you. We have done few interviews with world top authors (like you) as well. They are Neal Schaffer, Jan Vermeiren, etc. They are Linkedin world top authors. But networking is very important offline and online.

    I know that different people have different networking policy, I hope I don’t offend your networking policy. I just wish to help more people to succeed in doing networking through your knowledge. 🙂

    If you agree, I will send an invitation on Linkedin. 🙂
    God bless you. 🙂

  10. Miscommunication is the basis for situation comedies on TV. As early as my twenties (and I’m pushing 70 now), I found them boring because the lack of communication not only was entirely pointless but was also highlighted. Pretty shaky ground on which to build a story. I suppose our culture’s general mindlessness looks for something equally mindless that won’t tax the brain – maybe what one needs after a long day at work. But a steady diet of it? Not for me!

    Not going directly to the source of miscommunication, but talking to others instead about the problem also leads to gossip, which generates more miscommunication.

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